Thursday, July 8, 2010

Appeals court does what oil industry wants in Louisiana

If you know what you're doing in the legal world and you have plenty of resources, you can pretty much always find a judge, or judges, willing to do whatever you want. So it was no surprise Thursday when a federal appeals court in New Orleans enjoined the Obama administration from implementing a six-month moratorium on deep-water oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The three-judge panel upheld a judge's ruling last month that struck down the moratorium as too broad and unfair to the fishing industry, and agreed that it should not even be enforced during the months it will take for the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, according to the New York Times. Lawyers for the U.S. Department of the Interior had argued that the catastrophic BP oil rig explosion and massive leak made the moratorium necessary; industry representatives contended the suspension of drilling was crippling economically and should not be enforceable while their lawsuit challenging it was pending. Of course, ordinary people may find it impossible to imagine a situation where immediate and drastic government intervention is more appropriate -- a highly technical operation on a mass scale gone awry, causing incalculable and continuing environmental damage. Ordinary people might think that such a situation is precisely why the government is necessary. But the oil industry is not ordinary people; apparently, neither is Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who opposed the stay on economic reasons even though the leak has rendered the Louisiana coast virtually unusable and, apparently, destroyed the Gulf fishing industry. Then again, the appeals court ruled that the Interior Department had not proven that it would suffer irreparable injury if drilling operations were not halted like the administration was demanding. It's hard to argue against that proposition, even though the sea bottom drilling operation that blew up and killed a dozen workers has so far resisted all efforts at repair. After all, there are 3,000 drilling platforms in the Gulf, and only one of them has ever exploded and caused a catastrophic oil spill.

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